SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #173 : KARINE POLWART

One of my mates, Micky, has long been a huge fan of Karine Polwart, trying hard over the years to convince me to give her a fair hearing.  I actually have given it a go, but I’ve found her material just too rootsy and folky for my liking….although I may give her newest material a listen over the coming weeks (I’ll come back to that in due course).

From wiki (edited):-

Karine Polwart (born 23 December 1970) grew up in the small Stirlingshire town of Banknock and had an interest in music from an early age. She has described her whole family as being interested in music and one of her brothers, Steven, is also a professional musician who plays guitar in the Karine Polwart band, whilst her sister Kerry is developing her own musical career with the group The Poems.

Despite an active musical career from a young age, including forming her own band KP and the Minichips at age 10, Polwart was discouraged from studying music at school and ended up studying politics and philosophy at the University of Dundee. After graduating with a First Class Degree in Philosophy Polwart moved to Glasgow to study for a Masters in Philosophical Inquiry.

Her first job after her studies was as a philosophy tutor in a primary school, a job she describes as giving her a “massive buzz.” After this she spent six years working for the Scottish Women’s Aid movement on issues such as domestic and child abuse and young people’s rights and these experiences have influenced her songwriting.

Polwart initially gained prominence as lead singer of the group Malinky. With the release of their debut album Last Leaves in January 2000, Polwart left her job to concentrate on her musical career. After successful periods with Malinky, macAlias and Battlefield Band, and contributions to three volumes (Volumes 7, 8 and 9) of Linn Records’ The Complete Songs of Robert Burns project, she decided to embark on a solo career. In 2003 she released her first solo album, Faultlines which went on to win the Best Album award at the 2005 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

In April 2006, Polwart released her second solo album Scribbled in Chalk. This album was heralded with much critical acclaim receiving impressive reviews from amongst others, The Scotsman, The Sunday Times, and The Independent on Sunday. A UK wide tour followed as well as appearances on BBC 2’s Culture Show, Simon Mayo’s Album show on Radio 2, Mike Harding’s folk show on Radio 2, BBC Radio Scotland on the Janice Forsyth show and the Janice Long Late show on Radio 2.

Like Faultlines, Scribbled in Chalk often looks at the darker side of life with tales of sex trafficking (“Maybe there’s a Road”), the holocaust (“Baleerie Baloo”, which is about the missionary Jane Haining) and the uncertainties of life (“Hole in the Heart”). But these stories of despair are balanced by others that describe the joy of a slower life (“Take Its Own Time”), of hope triumphing over cynicism (“Where the Smoke Blows”) and the wonder of the universe (“Terminal Star”).

As well as her solo work, Polwart spent much of 2006 collaborating with other artists on a variety of projects; Roddy Woomble, the lead singer of Idlewild, asked her to help co-write and provide backing vocals for his solo album, My Secret is My Silence.  Polwart also supported The Beautiful South on their tour and she guested with David Knopfler at The Globe Theatre for a charity benefit for Reprieve.

At the 2006, Hogmanay Live celebrations on BBC Scotland, Polwart played several of her songs and also dueted with Paolo Nutini. Toward the end of the year, she became one of the founder members of  musical collective The Burns Unit.

She took time off from live performance during 2007 as she was pregnant with her first child. During this time she recorded two albums: Fairest Floo’er comprising mostly traditional songs, and This Earthly Spell, containing only original compositions.

Polwart’s website announced in February 2010 that she intends to take a year’s “maternity leave” (Polwart’s daughter, Rosa, was born on 1 April 2010) but would perform with the Burns Unit in the summer. She also recorded an EP with Lau which was released through her website in July 2010.

Polwart released her fifth studio album, Traces, in August 2012, to a strongly positive critical response. It became her first official UK Top 75 entry, entering the albums chart at number 57.  Polwart releases music through her own Hegri Music imprint, named from the Gaelic word for heron. Polwart describes the heron as her favourite animal and her song “Follow the Heron”, which she has recorded both solo (on the Scribbled in Chalk album) and with Malinky (on the 3 Ravens album), has been much covered by artists including The McCalmans, Robert Lawrence and Cathie Ryan.

The only song I have is from her participation in Ballads of The Books, an album curated Roddy Woomble, and featuring collaborations between Scottish musicians and Scottish writers. The album is considered a joint effort by all those involved. It was released on Chemikal Underground in March 2007, and Karine’s collaboration was with Edwin Morgan (27 April 1920 – 17 August 2010), who was one of the foremost and left-leaning Scottish poets of the 20th century.

mp3 : Karine Polwart and Edwin Morgan – The Good Years

I mentioned earlier that I may be tempted to give the singer’s new album a listen. Here’s the promotional blurb:-

Award-winning songwriter and folk singer Karine Polwart reimagines a clutch of beloved songs that cut across fifty years of Scottish pop. Eighties classics from Deacon Blue, The Waterboys and Big Country sit alongside the stadium balladry of Biffy Clyro, while maverick legend Ivor Cutler rubs shoulders with the electro pop of Chvrches and the immaculate song craft of John Martyn.

Recorded at Chem 19, Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook features regular band mates Steven Polwart and Inge Thomson, with Graeme Smillie (bass and keys), Calum McIntyre (kit and percussion) and Louis Abbott of Admiral Fallow (vocals, guitar & percussion).

Karine says, “To me, these are songs of resilience and resistance, cries of despair and dreams of something better. They’re pop songs, but also love songs to people and places we all recognise. They totally fill my heart up”.

Tracklisting:

The Whole Of The Moon (Waterboys)
From Rags To Riches (Blue Nile)
Dignity (Deacon Blue)
Since Yesterday (Strawberry Switchblade)
Swim Until You Can’t See Land (Frightened Rabbit)
Chance (Big Country)
The Mother We Share (Chvrches)
Don’t Want To Know (John Martyn)
Whatever’s Written In Your Heart (Gerry Rafferty)
Machines (Biffy Clyro)
Women Of The World (Ivor Cutler)

Ballads of the Book was produced at Chem19 studios by Paul Savage and Andy Miller.

There was a very positive review in the Guardian newspaper which adds to the intrigue:-

The C90 cassette unspooling on the sleeve makes an apt motif for an album that is both a tribute to Scottish pop and a personal testimony from Caledonia’s reigning folk queen. Not that there’s much folk involved; most of the songs Karine Polwart interprets here are from the mainstream, drawn from a live show in turn inspired by an Edinburgh exhibition, Rip It Up, celebrating Scotland’s distinctive contribution to British pop. Big Country’s Chance, for example, was an air-punching anthem for a teenage Polwart in smalltown Stirlingshire, though it’s here transformed into a meditation on domestic abuse and an abandoned young mother.

Polwart works similar reconstructions on the likes of Deacon Blue, the Blue Nile and John Martyn. Strawberry Switchblade’s Since Yesterday morphs from bubblegum romance into a commentary on Alzheimer’s – “I’m scared I’ll have to say/ That a part of you is gone since yesterday” – while the Waterboys’ rocking The Whole of the Moon gets a minimalist treatment, with deft backings of glockenspiel and clarinet from a fine band. Whatever the song, Polwart’s vocals, austere rather than exuberant, tease out underlying themes of resilience and resistance to make a compendium of small-p political pop.

Here’s a video for one of the tracks:-

 

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #221 : ICEAGE

A GUEST POSTING by SWC*

(*welcome back mate, hope this is the first of many – JC)

Iceage are brilliant. Probably one of the most exciting and refreshing bands in the world right now. They have released four albums of breathtaking post punk pop gothic. Albums all wrapped up around the voice of their ridiculously attractive singer, Elias Bender Ronnenfelt (and there should be a line through that ‘o’ but I can’t find the right key on the keyboard, I hope that not offensive to any Danes that might be reading). Their first two albums sound like the best bits of Joy Division shovelled into a blender with the best bits of Fugazi and ‘Sister’ era Sonic Youth and they are both bleeding masterpieces. If you don’t own them you should rectify that situation as soon as possible.

Their third and fourth albums are slightly different, they sound more like Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds if Nick Cave had started to think he was Mark E Smith and the Bad Seeds came from Kansas. Again, they are both, the fourth one particularly, bleeding masterpieces and if you don’t own them, you should rectify that situation as soon as possible.

But.

There is always a ‘but’, isn’t there.

It very nearly went very wrong indeed for Iceage. Let’s have some swirly smoke and I’ll do an Al from Quantum Leap style jump and give you the backstory….

Iceage were formed in 2008, in Copenhagen, and comprised four teenagers raised on a diet of, Black Flag, Dead Kennedy, Crass and a liking for highbrow references about art, French Philosophers and Nietzsche. In 2011 their debut album ‘New Brigade’ came out and before long the press were drawling and drooling all over them (12 songs 28 minutes…It really is outstanding). They were widely touted as being the greatest thing to hit the post punk pop gothic world since Joy Division (if Joy Division looked like The Strokes that is).

Their live shows had already started to gain legendary status, tales of shambolically brilliant performances, where instruments were trashed, tunes and singing ignored, and band members were so wasted that they could barely stand, emerged. Yet that still didn’t burst their bubble. Iceage quickly grew from being called ‘the new Joy Division’ to being called ‘the greatest rock and roll band in the world’. The band were still in their late teens at this stage.

Fans openly drooled with anticipation at the prospect of a second album. But here is where it almost went wrong.

Around the time that second album it was being recorded some concerning allegations of the band having far right leanings emerged over the internet. Early interviews (in Danish) emerged where the band name dropped German fascist bands, alongside drawings penned by (a teenage) Ronnenfelt of the Ku Klux Klan and shaky grainy video footage of (audience members) sieg heiling at their early shows. It looked like perhaps that Iceage were not everything that we expected.

I mean it’s worrying and we have all abandoned bands for way less….rightly as well. In the last year I have abandoned in order The Orwells (sexual assault allegations), Hookworms (ditto), Ryan Adams (ditto), countless rappers (homophobia and general arsetrumpetry) and that’s even before we start on that Farage wannabe from Salford whose name I can’t even type.

Anway back to Iceage, who you have probably guessed I haven’t abandoned.

A short while after the allegations surfaced, Iceage released their second album (to glowing reviews and widespread praise) and left their native Denmark to embark on a massive tour. In the UK the band took the time addressed these concerns. They said that they were dumb kids (“we were genuine morons, truly unaware of the larger implications…” they said in one interview) and looked devastated by the whole thing. (this 2013 interview in The Guardian is wonderfully insightful)

What we found out later that is that Iceage are vocally pro-immigration, vocally anti-fascist and are very much a left leaning band. Something which definitely comes across in their second album (take ‘Morals’ for instance – side two track one below) and their third and fourth for that matter.

Was that enough, well perhaps, like I said we’ve all abandoned bands for way less. We’ve also forgiven bands for way worse (Bowie, sieg heiling for instance….). I for one am willing to overlook the idiocy of kids because when you drill into their music, it’s passionate, it’s angry, it’s about dejection and the pain of that post adolescent life (and not ,you know, about ethnic cleansing and that). I’m also prepared to overlook it because the links were laughably tenuous to say the least.

I’m going to shut up now, and let the music take over. I’ll end how I started. Iceage are brilliant. Probably one of the most exciting and refreshing bands in the world right now.

Side One

Hurrah – from Beyondless (2018)

‘Hurrah’ opens the bands most recent record ‘Beyondless’ an album which pushes the band further away from the early punk days. I mean this contains handclaps. Handclaps. On an Iceage record. When you get that you know anything that follows will be brilliant

Cimmerian Shade – from Plowing Into the Field of Love (2014)

‘Plowing Into the Field of Love’ is the bands third album and it sees them in one breathless album explore new territory which is perhaps best defined as ‘relaxed’. There is a more steady sound to it. . On ‘Cimmerian Shade’ you get a good example of Elias’s Nick Cave impression. But you also get a chugging, desperate sounding bass, interspersed with grunts or more likely growls from Ronnenfelt and then the drums kick in and pound away while guitars scratch away monstrously.

Showtime – From Beyondless (2018)

Imagine if you like you have wandered into a part of city that you don’t know very well. Inside a building you hear some brass band playing, intrigued you take a look. When you get inside you just see a mad circus on a stage playing out some devilish show involving a brass band and a man terrorizing the audience. That, folks, is what ‘Showtime’ sounds like. Its madness but its genius.

Pain Killer (featuring Sky Ferreira) – From Beyondless (2018)

‘Pain Killer’ is extraordinary, the musical equivalent of a bathbomb that when it fizzes and dissolves you find your bath full of spikes. A song that sounds all cosy and comfy but when you explore you discover that it is all about spider webs, death and all that. It comes armed as well with a classic hook and a chorus that tells that they “Rue the day you became my pain killer”. It is as close as the bad will ever come to sounding like ‘XTMNTR’ era Primal Scream.

You’re Nothing – From ‘You’re Nothing’ (2013)

The title track from the second album closes this particular side of the ICA. ‘You’re Nothing’ is as raw and as uncompromising a track as you can imagine. It sees a band that at the time had taken a load of anxieties and turned them into energy and the result was staggering.

(Interlude)

Side Two

Morals – From ‘You’re Nothing’ (2013)

‘Morals’ was I think the track that hinted at a softer more soulful side to Iceage. Here for the first time the band use a piano, albeit a sort of juddery kind of piano that has been attacked with an axe. We also hear Elias actually croon for the first time. Ok, he’s mocking us, but in a croony kind of way.

Broken Bone – From New Brigade (2011)

This is for some reason the only track from the debut album that made it on this album, there is no reason for that ‘New Brigade’ is as I have said a masterpiece in so many ways. ‘Broken Bone’ is probably the most accessible moment of it. It’s almost a pop song in the same way that anything by say Idles is almost a pop record.

Forever – From Plowing Into The Field of Love (2014)

When Iceage returned in 2014 this was the first track that most people heard. It took two or three listens to actually realise it was Iceage. This is largely because of the reverb heavy intro makes it sounds like Queens of the Stone Age rather than gloomy Joy Division obsessed goths from the back streets of Copenhagen. But it’s also because of the outro, which has this incredible horn bursting in from literally nowhere as Ronnenfelt wails about ‘Losing himself forever’. Stunning.

Coalition – From You’re Nothing (2012)

When ‘Coalition’ was released Iceage said that it was as close as the band would ever get to writing a straight up love song. Which is kind of what it is. A confused and bleak love song that talks about feeling ‘numb and faded’. It is still ace though.

The Lord’s Favorite – from Plowing Into the Field of Love (2014)

The stand out track of Plowing Into the Field Love is ‘The Lords Favorite’ and until ‘Showtime’ arrived this was my favo(u)rite Iceage track. It has this strange honky tonk style posturing feel about it.  The thing I love about it is that it is playful, cheeky and sounds like the band no longer has a single care in the world.

SWC

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 24)

A GUEST POSTING by FlimFlanFan

Jeannie C. Riley (Jeanne Carolyn Stephenson)

Harper Valley P.T.A.

1968

Maybe this post is a little obvious for this series, perhaps even a little lazy? It seems such an obvious contender. I hope you’ll enjoy the lyrics, the twee name of the record label and the very ‘country’ name of one of the record label owners.

Signed initially to Little Darlin Records, co-owned by Johnny Paycheck and Aubrey Mayhew, Riley released the LP Sock Soul in 1968 – it didn’t chart in the US. In the same year she released a single and LP both titled Harper Valley P.T.A. on Plantation Records. The song was originally recorded by Margie Singleton, also in 1968.

Written by Tom T. Hall who was nicknamed “The Storyteller”, which is apt given he wrote many other songs and 9 books, Riley’s version of the song sold over six million copies as a single. It made Riley the first woman to top both the Billboard Hot 100 and the U.S. Hot Country Singles charts with the same song, a feat that would go un-repeated until Dolly Parton‘s “9 to 5” in 1981.

Hall has since said “ The story is a true story. I didn’t make the story up; I chose the story to make a statement, but I changed the names to protect the innocent. … I was about nine years old and heard the story and got to know this lady. I was fascinated by her grit. To see this very insignificant, socially disenfranchised lady – a single mother – who was willing to march down to the local aristocracy read them the riot act, so to speak, was fascinating. I wrote the song 30 years later; that song was my novel.”

On hearing this song some years after it’s release, I was taken by this strong woman Mrs Johnson, who wouldn’t take shite from anyone and had the keenest, highly-justifiable, observational put-downs. There was always a giggle to be found at the line “And if you smell Shirley Thompson’s breath You’ll find she’s had a little nip of gin”. My sister-in-law was called Shirley Thomson. Cue giggles.

I wanna tell you all the story ’bout
A Harper Valley widowed wife
Who had a teenage daughter
Who attended Harper Valley Junior High
Well her daughter came home one afternoon
And didn’t even stop to play
And she said mom, I got a note here from the Harper Valley PTA

Well the note said Mrs. Johnson
You’re wearin’ your dresses way too high
It’s reported you’ve been drinking
And a-running round with men and goin’ wild
And we don’t believe you oughta be a-bringin’ up
Your little girl this way
And it was signed by the Secretary
Harper Valley PTA

Well, it happened that the PTA was gonna meet
That very afternoon
And they were sure surprised
When Mrs. Johnson wore her miniskirt into the room
And as she walked up to the blackboard
I can still recall the words she had to say
She said I’d like to address this meeting of the Harper Valley PTA

Well there’s Bobby Taylor sittin’ there
And seven times he asked me for a date
And Mrs. Taylor sure seems to use a lotta ice
Whenever he’s away
And Mr. Baker can you tell us why
Your secretary had to leave this town?
And shouldn’t widow Jones be told to keep
Her window shades all pulled completely down

Well, Mr Harper couldn’t be here
‘Cause he stayed too long at Kelly’s Bar again
And if you smell Shirley Thompson’s breath
You’ll find she’s had a little nip of gin
And then you have the nerve to tell me
You think that as a mother I’m not fit
Well this is just a little Peyton Place
And you’re all Harper Valley hypocrites

No, I wouldn’t put you on because it really did
It happened just this way
The day my mama socked it to the Harper Valley PTA
The day my mama socked it to the Harper Valley PTA

Riley recorded a sequel, “Return to Harper Valley” (in 1984, also written by Hall) but it was not a commercial success.

mp3 : Jeannie C. Riley – Harper Valley P.T.A.

Here’s the original take on it:-

mp3 : Margie Singleton – Harper Valley P.T.A.

And, for completeness, the 1984 sequel:-

mp3 : Jeannie C. Riley – Return to Harper Valley

FlimFlanFan

 

I’M BEGGING OF YOU PLEASE……

Earlier this year, as part of my present to my mum to celebrate her turning 80 years of age, I took her to London to see ‘9 to 5 – The Musical’, a show based on the film of the same name and for which Dolly Parton had written a number of new songs. My mum thoroughly enjoyed the show, and it would be disingenuous if I tried to claim that I didn’t also have a good time.

It got me thinking as to when I first became aware of Dolly Parton and that would have been back in 1976 when Jolene, arguably probably her best-known song, reached the Top 10 in the UK singles charts. Quite incredibly, that’s the only time she has ever cracked the singles charts in the UK as a solo artist – her only other big hit was Islands In The Stream, a duet with Kenny Rogers (and a cover of a Bee Gees number) that reached #7.

I was sure that 9 to 5 must have been a huge hit, but it turns out that it stalled at #47 back in 1981 and hasn’t ever been given a further physical release since, albeit it has enjoyed more than 840,000 downloads since these things started being counted and has been streamed more than 8 million times, an indication of just how popular it has become over the past almost 40 years.

But today’s posting isn’t really about Ms Parton, and instead is an excuse to offer up a few cover versions of her only ever solo hit single.

Strawberry Switchblade, in 1985, released it as the follow-up to their hit single Since Yesterday:-

mp3 : Strawberry Switchblade – Jolene

Sadly, it, and the parent album released around the same time, didn’t do much in terms of sales and the duo went their separate ways shortly after.

Another very fine Scottish singer, Dot Allison, persuaded her band to have a go at it and it found its way onto the b-side of their final single before they broke up:-

mp3 : One Dove – Jolene

Is there something about this songs that it has a crazy ability to bring about the end of a band once they’ve had a stab at it?

Not quite, in that this next take on it dates from a BBC Radio 1 session in 1983 and the band kept going for almost another 20 years:-

mp3 : The Sisters of Mercy – Jolene (Kid Jensen Session)

And finally, the version which resulted in the song making an appearance in the UK charts in 2004:-

mp3 : The White Stripes – Jolene (Live Under Blackpool Lights)

The live single was issued to accompany a live DVD, recorded at the beginning of 2004, but held back and released in time for that year’s Xmas market.

The White Stripes had previously, in 2000, recorded a studio version of the song, making it available as the b-side to Hello Operator, an early single that was never given a release in the UK.

mp3 : The White Stripes – Jolene

There are numerous other cover versions out there but these are all I can offer up from my own vaults.

JC

ANOTHER SIMPLY THRILLING NIGHT OF MUSIC, DANCING AND SINGING

Last Friday, 16 August 2019, it absolutely pissed down from the heavens in Glasgow for what seemed like the 20th day in a row. It wouldn’t normally be anything that bothered or concerned me being another day to confirm the modern-era summers round these parts where we are experience a bit more heat, accompanied by bursts of very heavy and thundery showers, especially in August.

The down side on this occasion was that it coincided with the first Scottish gig, in 27 years(!!) by The Cure, with the venue being a park on the south side of the city, just a few hundred yards from my front door. The venue was bound to be a quagmire, and boots/sturdy footwear would be essential for everyone going along, as too would sensible clothing/jackets to combat the heavy rain.

The real down side was that the Simply Thrilled team, having at short notice requiring to cancel our planned event for July, re-scheduled things for 16 August, shifting the timings to 11pm – 3am so that anyone going to The Cure, with support from Mogwai and The Twilight Sad, could make it along afterwards. My great fear was that we would have next to nobody there, despite selling more than 150 tickets in advance, as folk would just go home to dry out or feel they weren’t dressed well enough to come into the city centre for a bit of dancing.

How wrong could I be? Loads came along, a fair number of whom couldn’t care less how they looked after spending hours in the open air. Quite a few dropped in without having been to the gig on the basis that we have earned a reputation for putting on a good night and there were also a good number of walk-ups on the night which meant we got reasonably close to capacity.

I did my usual stint, with great help and support from Carlo, of playing the opening set of the night – normally when we’ve done our few hours with an 8pm start, it’s just getting warmed up with folk getting onto the dance floor in dribs and drabs just in time for Robert and Hugh to cast their magic spells.

This time round, with the later start, there was a desire among the crowd to get things going more quickly, persumably as not everyone has the ability to last till 3am, especially if you’ve been out all day. As a result, we got the best reaction we’ve ever had and it meant when we exited the booth, our mates took over what was already a hot, excited and happy crowd for whom they cranked it up, turning it into party central, taking and playing all sorts of requests, veering away occasionally from the Scottish stuff, before finishing things off at the end of the night with a few numbers that got everyone emotional. Here’s the full playlist:-

1. There’s A Girl In The Corner – Robert Smith
2. VTr – The Twilight Sad
3. Sweat In Bullet – Simple Minds
4. The Kindest Heart – The Affectionate Punch
5. All The Records On The Radio Are Shite – Ballboy
6. Be Less Rude – Frightened Rabbit
7. Doing The Unstuck – The Cure
8. Wonderful Lie – The Hardy Boys
9. Surfin’ USA – The Jesus And Mary Chain
10. Fast Blood – Frightened Rabbit
11. His Latest Flame – The Motorcycle Boy
12. Queer – Garbage
13. The One I Loathe The Least – The Just Joans
14. Star Sign – Teenage Fanclub
15. Why Can’t I Be You – The Cure
16. So Good To Be Back Home – The Tourists
17. The Rattler – Goodbye Mr Mackenzie
18. Mary’s Prayer – Danny Wilson
19. Love’s Glory – Fruits Of Passion
20. Breaking Point – Bourgie Bourgie
21. Lost Weekend – Lloyd Cole And The Commotions
22. Inbetween Days – The Cure
23. Hot Hot Hot!!! – The Cure
24. Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) – Eurythmics
25. Last January – The Twilight Sad
26. The Honeythief – Hipsway
27. I Travel – Simple Minds
28. Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand
29. Friday I’m In Love – The Cure
30. Oblivious – Aztec Camera
31. Don’t Talk To Me About Love – Altered Images
32. Maggie May – Rod Stewart
33. You’ve Got The Power – Win
34. I’m Not Here – The Twilight Sad
35. Just Like Heaven – Dinosaur Jr.
36. Fast Blood – Frightened Rabbit
37. Live In A Hiding Place – Idlewild
38. Small Town Boy – Bronski Beat
39. The Mother We Share – Chvrches
40. Close To Me – The Cure
41. Enola Gay – OMD
42. A Little Respect – Erasure
43. Don’t Leave Me This Way – The Communards
44. Somewhere In My Heart – Aztec Camera
45. I’m A Cuckoo – Belle And Sebastian
46. Rip It Up – Orange Juice
47. [10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs] – The Twilight Sad
48. Hit The North – The Fall
49. The Drowners – Suede
50. Don’t Go – Yazoo
51. You Spin Me ‘Round – Dead Or Alive
52. Diamond Dogs – David Bowie
53. Atomic – Blondie
54. Groove Is In The Heart – Deelite
55. Testify – Hifi Sean
56. Movin’ On Up – Primal Scream
57. I’m Free – The Soup Dragons
58. Shoreline – Broder Daniel
59. The Modern Leper – Frightened Rabbit
60. The Shy Retirer – Arab Strap
61. Higher Than The Sun – Primal Scream
62. Atmosphere – Joy Division
63. And She Would Darken The Memory – The Twilight Sad
64. Keep Yourself Warm – Frightened Rabbit
65. Plainsong – The Cure (Exit Music)

I know I say this after each of these nights, but this was the best one yet. Yes, I’ve had a great buzz at previous nights standing alongside guest DJs such as Aidan Moffat, Stuart Braithwaite and James Graham, but the crowd last Friday night really made it an incredibly special and memorable night.

Hopefully, it won’t be too long till the next one.

Here’s my just under two hours of stuff (tracks 1-33 from above)

Various – Simply Thrilled (August 2019)

JC

RECALLING THE HEART THROBS (AN ICA IN ALL BUT NAME!!)

The Heart Throbs are one of those indie-bands from the late 80s/early 90s who don’t seem to generate too much in the way of nostalgic musings across t’internet. They were too late (and too professional) for the C86 movement and its aftermath and they didn’t move their sound on in any great way to be lumped in with the sort of music associated with baggy/Madchester. There was also, perhaps, something of a suspicion of nepotism getting the band to places where others hadn’t been able to reach on the grounds that two members of The Heart Throbs were sisters of Bunnymen drummer, Pete de Freitas. If so, that’s quite unfair as while I don’t actually have all that much in the collection other than a few dribs’n’drabs via singles on compilation CDs, much of it is very listenable.

The band came together in 1986 when college friends Rose Carlotti (who was born Rosemarie DeFreitas) and Stephen Ward, decided to turn a concept into reality by asking Rachael de Freitas and Mark Side to form a band. Rose would play guitar and sing, Rachel would play bass and sing backing vocals, Stephen would play guitar and the 17-year old Mark would drum.

One thing to note is that the credits for the songs, certainly in the early days, were attributed either collectively to the four members of the band or to ‘Carlotti/Ward/Carlotti/Side’, indicating that Rose and Rachael didn’t really want to trade on the family name (worth remembering also that a fourth sibling, Frank de Freitas, was bassist with The Woodentops, another up and coming indie band of the era).

The first single was released in 1987 on In-Tape, a label that had been started up a few years previously by Marc Riley when he took his leave of The Fall:-

mp3 : The Heart Throbs – Toy

The band also toured with Jesus and Mary Chain, generating enough of a buzz to be offered a deal by Rough Trade for whom there were two singles in 1988, both of which were minor hits in the indie charts:-

mp3 : The Heart Throbs – Bang
mp3 : The Heart Throbs – Too Many Shadows

The band showed a sense of humour and irony with their next step, which was to form their own label which they named Profumo, after the six scandal that had rocked British politics in the 60s. One of the protagonists in the Profumo scandal was Stephen Ward…which was of course also the name of the guitarist and founding member of The Heart Throbs. There were just the two singles on Profumo:-

mp3 : The Heart Throbs – Here I Hide
mp3 : The Heart Throbs – Blood From A Stone

By now, the band had added a further guitarist, Alan Borgia, to flesh out their sound both in the studio and on stage. There was always a sense that they were on the verge of making a breakthrough, certainly from a fair amount of positive media coverage and they inked a fairly lucrative deal with One Little Indian in the UK and with Elektra in the USA, with the latter firmly believing they had a band who could, just as R.E.M. had done, find mainstream success in due course via the college-radio route.

A more than decent debut LP, Cleopatra Grip, was released on both sides of the Atlantic in 1990. It contained two absolutely superb singles, which; looking back probably was the pinnacle of the band’s output:-

mp3 : The Heart Throbs – Dreamtime
mp3 : The Heart Throbs – I Wonder Why

The singles and album didn’t cross over into the mainstream, and underlying tensions within the band began to come to the fore, resulting in Rachael and Mark quitting the band in early 1991. Their replacements were experienced musicians in the shape of Noko (ex-Luxuria) on bass and Steve Monti (ex-Blockheads) on drums, with the new-look band’s first release being the Total Abandon EP of which this was the lead track:-

mp3 : The Heart Throbs – Turn Away

The next blow came when Elektra opted out of things but A&M stepped in for the American side of things and the band went into the studio to start work on the sophomore album, Jubilee Twist, from these two tracks also formed the two sides of a 7” single:-

mp3 : The Heart Throbs – Hooligan
mp3 : The Heart Throbs – So Far

The sales of the new material were poor and the band had lost all sense of momentum and direction. The rhythm section paid the price and left, being replaced in 1993 by Colleen Browne on bass and Steve Beswick on drums. This line-up would record a third album, the largely ignored Vertical Smile for which One Little Indian did little in the way of promotion bar one EP of which this was the lead track:-

mp3 : The Heart Throbs – Worser

The band called it a day soon after the album hit the shops, lamenting that they had always been contenders but never the champions.

So there you have it….the condensed story of The Heart Throbs over the six years they were in existence, during which they released three albums with three different rhythm sections. There’s 11 songs offered up for your listening pleasure and I’ll be disappointed if you can’t find at least one to tickle your fancy. As I said, it’s really an ICA in disguise.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Part 13)

The success of New Gold Dream led to Simple Minds being put on the bill of a number of outdoor festivals in mainland Europe in June/July 1983 after which the band returned to the studio to begin work on a new album. They did come out of hibernation on 14 August to appear as special guests of U2 at a massive event in Phoenix Park, Dublin at which they opened with a new song, one that signified yet another shift in sound.

They returned to the studio and, in typical style, quickly finished off work on the new album under the watchful eye and helping hand of producer Steve Lillywhite.

Virgin Records took the decision to delay the release of the new album, partly on the basis of New Gold Dream still selling in reasonable numbers and also the fact that they now wanted Simple Minds to be a band that had a worldwide release for new material rather than it being issued firstly in the UK.

But, as had been the case with the earlier LPs recorded for Virgin, there was an advanced release of a 45 (see the previous features on The American and Promised You A Miracle).

mp3 : Simple Minds – Waterfront

This was Simple Minds as never heard before. Big, bombastic, anthemic and tailor-made for radio, thanks in part to the one-note bassline that dominates in so many places.

I can honestly say that Glasgow went nuts for this song. The band had always been proud to say it was their home city, arguing in interviews that it suffered from an ill-deserved reputation in terms of grime, poverty and violence. They were proud of its and their own working-class roots and firmly believed the city was about to undergo something of a renaissance. The video for the new single was made in Glasgow, with many evocative outdoor scenes intermingling with live footage that had been shot at the Barrowlands Ballroom, a rundown and derelict venue in the east end of the city in front of an audience that had applied for tickets via a local radio station.

It really is no exaggeration to say that Simple Minds single-handedly saved the live music scene in Glasgow. The only realistic venue for touring bands, The Apollo, had closed down and was scheduled for demolition. The alterative would be the soon-to-be-completed Exhibition Centre with its cavernous shed holding 10,000, but that wouldn’t have been suitable for most bands who were looking for a capacity of 2-3,000. The Barrowlands had been a dance hall of reputation in the 60s and early 70s but had long been neglected as folk flocked to the new discotheques. There had been talk of it perhaps becoming a replacement for the Apollo but nothing was happening until Simple Minds, on 27 November 1983, got its doors re-opened for a gig (with limited capacity) that would be filmed as part of promotional videos for upcoming singles.

One month later, with more work done in terms of health and safety, Simple Minds returned to the Barrowlands for three pre-Xmas gigs, all of which could have sold out ten times over. By this time Waterfront had been a #13 hit in the UK charts, it would have sat at #1 in Scotland for months if there had been a separate chart. Worth noting too that all three of these gigs opened with Waterfront and that the song was also used to round off the final encore.

I’ve never been a lover of Waterfront but, at the same time, I am full of admiration and gratitude for what it did in terms of making Glasgow such an important location in terms of live music, one that has been built on to great effect over the past 35 years.

The b-side was a live version of a song on New Gold Dream, taken from a show at Newcastle City Hall back in November 1982:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Hunter And The Hunted (live)

There was a palpable contrast in songs that were just a year apart in terms of them being recorded and it was going to be interesting to see what direction the new record would take. Given that Steve Lillywhite’s reputation had been forged with guitar-based music, it was a good bet that Simple Minds would be moving away from the sounds of the Arista years……

JC